Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gone, But Not Forgotten


Since I'm on this genealogy kick I thought I'd write about one of my Grandmothers today.  Neither was what you'd call real "grandmotherly", but Grandma Strader took the cake for being less than the ideal grandmother.  
When you think of grandmothers, at least for my generation, a picture of a little round woman, hair in a bun, glasses perched on the nose, apron over her dress, baking in the kitchen while telling lovely stories to her grandchildren.
Not my grandmother.  She was thin, stringy, iron grey hair worn long, Lucky Strike cigarette in hand telling you not to do something.
Lola Marie (my middle name is the same as hers so I'm kind of named after her) was born in Monett, Missouri on April 1901 and married my Grandfather Virgil Martin Strader on February 28, 1919.  Though they had 6 children, Virgil Jr. James Edward (my father), Carol Jean, Charles Cecil, Irma Elizabeth and Fredrick Martin,  it was not a successful marriage and they separated sometime after the birth of their last child.
My first memories of her were when we moved back to California in 1953, though she had babysat my older sister Judy and I when when were young, and had come to visit us in Missouri.  She looked so old, and witchlike, that I told my Mother that I hoped I'd never get that old, she would have been around 52 at the time, living in a cluttered house with an old dog named Rusty.
Judy says that when she'd give us a bath when she babysat us that she told us that if we weren't good we'd go down the drain!  Not the sort of thing a young child wants to hear.
When I was 9 I broke my arm and stayed with her for a couple of days because both my parents worked.  She insisted that I sleep with her though she had 2 other, crammed to the ceiling bedrooms, and told me not to be afraid of anyone breaking in because she had a knife under her pillow, and she showed it to me, a big one, a butcher knife.  Oh did I sleep  well, knowing how safe I was.
She was thin and always said that she ate like a bird, and we kids would say yeah, a vulture, because it wasn't true that she didn't eat a lot, she did, just very slowly, so you forgot how much she had eaten.  She must have had the metabolism of a humming bird, she never gained any weight.
When my parents were going somewhere that we kids didn't want to go we were given an alternative, we could stay with Grandma insead. Ha!   Went to a lot of places I really didn't want to go, but it beat the alternative.
Now it wasn't all bad, she had a closet full of National Geographic that dated back to practically their first issue.  And her dog was friendly.  She even taught me how to make chocolate chip cookies using a cake mix, I still make them!
She fought with nearly all of her kids at one time or another except for my Aunt Carol who must be a saint.
My Grandmother died in about 1985, so she had a long life.  I hope she enjoyed it, but she wasn't a person who looked on the bright side of things and so I fear it wasn't the happiest.  I can picture her up in Granny Heaven, smoking a Lucky and looking for someone to talk about.



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